The Giant Gila Monster is a 1959 hot rod/monster/science fiction film, directed by Ray Kellogg and produced by Ken Curtis. This low-budget B-movie starred Don Sullivan, a veteran of several low budget monster and zombie films, and Lisa Simone, the French contestant for Miss Universe of 1957, as well as comedy relief Shug Fisher and KLIF disc jockey Ken Knox. The effects included a live Mexican beaded lizard (not an actual Gila monster) filmed on a scaled-down model landscape. The movie is considered a cult classic.
Filmed near Dallas, Texas, the film was budgeted at $175,000 and was produced by Dallas drive-in theater chain owner Gordon McLendon who wanted co-features for his main attractions. McLendon shot the film back to back with The Killer Shrews. Both films were feted as the first feature films shot in and produced in Dallas, and the first movies to premiere as double features. Unlike most double features released in the South, these films received national and even foreign distribution.
In exchange for doing the special effects, Kellogg was allowed to direct the film. Curtis allowed Sullivan to pick the songs with the teenage market in mind. Knox, who played Horatio Alger "Steamroller" Smith, was an actual disc jockey working at radio stations in Texas owned by McLendon.
References in popular culture
The film was featured on a season 5 episode of Cinema Insomnia and season 4 of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Musician Glenn Danzig used the font from the promo poster for his bands Samhai and Danzig.
The film's titular monster made an appearance in the Godzilla: The Series episode "Freak Show".
In addition to being featured on numerous "bargain box" discs and the Horror Classics 50 Movie Pack DVD box set, The Giant Gila Monster was restored in color and released as a double-feature alongside The Killer Shrews by Legend Films.
The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, along with an exclusive interview with star Sullivan, was released by Rhino Home Video as part of the Collection Volume 10.2 box set. Rhino also offered an individual disk for purchase on their website for those who already bought Volume 10.